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Wednesday, 25 May 2016 10:21

Kent Primary and Junior School Allocations 2016: Kent on Sunday

Article that appeared in Kent on Sunday, 22 May 2016. Based on fuller article which you will find here. 

This year’s increase of 591 in the number of children offered places in Kent primary school Reception Classes has been met with a similar increase in the number of school places available, and the welcome news that the proportion of children gaining a school of their choice has also increased, to a record in recent years of 96.7%. Overall, there are 6% empty places, the same as last year, but these figures hide a growing number of local pressures focused on the towns. The biggest problems this year are in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, no empty spaces at all, Maidstone, one space, Gravesham, three, and Tunbridge Wells seven, each in just one school.

The ten most popular schools this year are: Fleetdown Primary, Dartford, and Loose Primary, Maidstone both turning away 53 first choices; Great Chart, Ashford, 41; Holy Trinity and St John’s CofE, Margate, 38; St Joseph’s RC in Northfleet, Sandgate in Folkestone, and  Claremont in Tunbridge Wells all on 37; St Michael’s CofE Infant in Maidstone, 35, St Crispin’s Infant, Westgate on 34; and Herne Infant on 33.

At the other end of the scale, there are fourteen schools with 50% or more vacancies. 

I would encourage parents to apply to go on the waiting list for any of their preferences that have not been offered, as there will be movement over the next four months. This is your best chance of getting a school of your choice, as chances at appeal are generally very low because of Infant Class Legislation which legally restricts class sizes. For 2015 entry, of 426 primary appeals registered where Infant Class Legislation applied, just two were upheld.

Further details of the towns under most pressure follow, a more comprehensive picture being available  here. 


An extra 60 temporary places have been put in to meet rising demand. 30 of these are at Willesborough Infant School creating some spare capacity, but apart from this the only school with vacancies in the town is the new Finberry Primary Academy, with eight spaces, although these will fill as new housing developments in the area come on stream. Great Chart, with 41 first choices turned away, and Kingsnorth CofE Primary with 28, are under extreme pressure because of building developments, and families buying new houses here are often in for a great shock when they discover there are no school places nearby.


 Just 3% vacancies in the district, the large majority in two town schools, Temple Hill and Wentworth. These are two of the three schools along with Brent Primary, that have seen an additional 90 temporary places created after applications were received to ease the pressure. Fleetdown Primary turned away 53 first choices, sharing the position of most oversubscribed school in Kent, Dartford Bridge Community (23) and Our Lady’s Catholic (20) also proving popular.
Just 3 places available in town, all at Tymberwood Academy, with 78 families getting none of their choices, by some way the highest figure in Kent. 90 additional places were created this year, 30 each at Singlewell, St John’s and Westcourt, just averting a disaster. Most oversubscribed school is St Joseph’s Catholic, turning away 37 first choices, with Cecil Road and St John’s Catholic on 31. Four schools account for the large majority of the Local Authority allocations for those with no school of their choice- Westcourt with 25 and three academies, Whitehill with 21, and Chantry and Tymberwood Academy with 13. Each year I am contacted by parents offered what appear to be absurd alternatives, often from Northfleet, given schools the other side of the Borough, or else over the A2 and into the countryside at Istead Rise.
Just one vacancy in one school in town, at Tree Tops Academy. Most oversubscribed school is Loose, one of the two most popular primary schools in the County, with 53 first choices turned down, followed by St Michael’s Infants with 35 losing out, closely followed by Brunswick House with thirty two. 58 children got no school of their choice, all but four being allocated to Barming, Palace Wood and Tree Tops. Jubilee Primary Free School has had its intake reduced from 60 to 30 by the Council because of planning problems with its temporary premises, and has just filled.  The new Langley Park Primary has 22 offers for its 60 places in its first year of operation, the pressure on places seen from the 13 Local Authority allocations made to the school, with some children who will need to be bussed from the other side of town.


None of the five town schools have vacancies, but levels of oversubscription have fallen across the board. Most oversubscribed this year is Lady Boswell’s CofE, turning away 24 fist choices, Riverhead Infants having fallen sharply to 10.


A much improved situation from last year, with the number of children allocated schools they hadn’t applied to falling from 38 to 23, spread across the town. Sandgate is still the most popular school, with 37 first choices rejected, although sharply down on last year’s 67, when the school was the most the most oversubscribed in Kent. Other popular schools are Stella Maris Catholic (17), and St Eanswythe’s CofE (16). The new Martello Grove Academy is struggling to attract numbers with just 8 of its 30 places filled.


Most oversubscribed school in Sittingbourne is Canterbury Road Primary turning away 21 first choices, followed by Grove Park, 14 and Kemsley Primary Academy, 13. Just four out of 14 schools with vacancies, nearly all at Lansdowne with 18. Plenty of places on the Isle of Sheppey, with just three of the ten schools full.

In Faversham, just five places left in Bysing Wood Primary out of the eight schools, which also had four of the five children allocated by KCC. However, Ethelbert Road, OFSTED Outstanding, was the only school heavily oversubscribed turning away 27 disappointed first choices.



In recent years, one of the most pressured Districts, but an additional 90 places have been created by the extension of St George’s CofE Foundation (secondary) to become an all through school and 30 places added at Birchington CofE. Whilst these ensure there are 45 places vacant across the 28 schools, they are all in just five schools, most at Dame Janet Primary Academy, 54, and Ramsgate Free School, 45. Most popular school again is Holy Trinity & St John’s CofE, with 38 disappointed first choices, followed by St Crispin’s Community Infants, 34 and Callis Grange Infants, 30.



Tonbridge is very tight again for 2016, with no vacancies in town. The delay in opening the new Bishop Chavasse Free School, set back to September 2017, has obviously exacerbated the pressures. However, all but 22 of the 608 applications were awarded one of their three choices, 20 of these being allocated to Long Mead Community. Most oversubscribed school is Sussex Road, 24 first choices rejected, followed by Stocks Green with 16 and Slade, 11.



Just 8 places empty this year, all at St Augustine’s Catholic, although 903 out of the 947 children received one of their three choices, most of the remainder, 29, being allocated by KCC to Temple Grove Academy. Most oversubscribed school is the ever popular Claremont, turning away 37 first choices, followed by St James’ CofE Infant with 26, and Langton Green with 18.



These tend to have a defined intake from paired Infant Schools whose pupils have priority for spaces. However, some families in all through primary schools who may not be particularly happy with their current school, or who have moved into the area, also take the opportunity to apply for additional or vacant places, with the result that 15 of the 28 Junior Schools in Kent are oversubscribed, most by small numbers. The three most popular are: Christ Church CofE Junior, 22 first choices turned away, and St Saviour’s CofE Junior, with 12, both from Thanet: along with Whitstable & Seasalter Endowed, with eleven.

Last modified on Friday, 27 May 2016 23:22

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  • Brook Learning Trust Schools in Trouble: Ebbsfleet Academy; Hayesbrook School; High Weald Academy

     The Brook Learning Trust runs three schools, Ebbsfleet Academy, Hayesbrook School in Tonbridge, and High Weald Academy in Cranbrook and appears to be in serious trouble, both financially and in terms of the standing of all of its three schools. 

    Ebbsfleet 1       High Weald 1    Hayesbrook 2
    I monitor a number of factors that indicate how a school supports its students and how it stands in its locality. These include: pupil vacancy rates in year Seven; popularity of schools expressed through first preferences when making applications; percentage drop out rates from the school for all reasons; and proportion of pupils leaving for Elective Home Education; together with academic performance. These three schools are each amongst the worst in the county on four in the case of Hayesbrook or all five of the first five measures for the other two schools. I consider that they can therefore be regarded as generally, if not academically, failing. These common themes across the Trust’s schools suggest the problem starts with the ethos and standards set by the Trust.

    The situation at High Weald Academy is especially dire, as government is proposing a multi-million pound premises investment into this school which appears to have no future under the Trust.

    I look below at the factors affecting each school and the Trust as a whole. I now have data showing a further fall in first choice applications for each school for Year Seven admission in September 2018, which will surely see the Trust heading for insolvency and for each school immense financial difficulty in providing an acceptable level of education. 

    Written on Wednesday, 28 February 2018 06:21 Be the first to comment! Read 522 times
  • Medway Secondary School Allocations for September 2018: Initial Information and Advice

    Table for allocations below has been completed, with more recent information provided.

    You will find a parallel Kent article here

    The Medway Council Press Release for secondary transfer is the thinnest yet I have seen from the Council on this, or any other subject I can recall. It contains just four facts: 3259 Medway children applied for and were offered places in secondary schools; 91% have been offered a first or second preference school; over 95.5%  were offered one of their preferences; there were 630 applications for Medway school places from children outside Medway. That is it! UPDATE: I have now obtained the full data through an FOI request and inserted it below. I can see no reason why the Council has chosen to hide it.  

    However, there is also a bizarre footnote on a completely different matter, considered below. 

    The table below compares my extrapolation of these numbers with outcomes in previous years. There is also initial advice on what to do if you have not received the school of your choice at the foot of the article on what to do if you have not been offered the school of your choice. This begins as always with my Corporal Jones mantra, do NOTHING in panic! You may regret it. There is no quick fix. 

    Both of the quoted percentages in the Press Release were identical to those in 2017, both a significant fall on 2016, at 93.7% and 97.4% respectively.For 2017 offers, first and second preferences allocated were separated, so one can guess the proportion of first preferences has fallen this year as Medway Council typically tries to fudge its figures. No mention of, or regret about, the unfortunate 147 children with no school of their choice. 

    The cohort size has increased by just 85 children, with the 4.5% who have been given no school of their choice, at approximately 147, five up on 2017.

    Why is the Council so afraid of providing information to its residents?

    Written on Friday, 02 March 2018 12:25 1 comment Read 695 times
  • Kent Secondary School Allocations for September 2018: Initial Information and Advice

    You will find a parallel Medway article here.

    Several updates below, including grammar issues for boys in Longfield, Hartley, NAG, etc. Also look at my response to comment, below. Grammar places for boys in Whitstable, Herne Bay also looking an issue. 

    Kent secondary school allocations have been sent out today for those registered to receive by email and should arrive tomorrow by post for all (weather permitting).

    17,442 Kent children applied for places in schools, 745 more than in 2017, with 79.6% of them being offered their first choice. This is the lowest percentage for at least five years, but just 0.8% down on last year. 765 children been given none of their four choices, at 4.4% of the total, again the highest proportion for at least five years, and well up on last year’s 633. I know that a number of additional school places have been created at pinch points across the county, notably Tunbridge Wells, but I am already hearing of some very difficult situations for some of the children with no school of their choice.

    In spite of another large increase in out of county applications to Kent schools, up 545 to 3,289, just 818 were offered places, only eight more than in 2017. This will have been partially balanced by around 500 going to schools outside Kent.

    You will find more information, including a look at some of the pressure points, together with the tables of outcomes below. You will also find required scores for super-selective schools as these are confirmed (all information welcomed), and initial advice at the foot of the article on what to do if you have not been offered the school of your choice. This begins as always with my Corporal Jones mantra, do NOTHING in panic! You may regret it. There is no quick fix. 

    There is also a link to the limited advice service I now offer. 

    Written on Thursday, 01 March 2018 12:03 12 comments Read 2747 times
  • Knole Academy and the Scandal of Exorbitant Headteacher Pay in Kent and Medway

    Update: Shortly after I published this article, the national BBC led with the same issue on its website, although amazingly there has been no local media interest at all. Is it that this is not of interest as it is what people expect? 

    The headteacher of The Knole Academy in Sevenoaks, a moderately performing single school academy, was paid £210,000 in 2016-17 making her the highest paid academy head or Chief Executive in Kent and Medway. This is an increase of 35% over the past three years after what can only be described as an irresponsible series of decisions by Governors, bringing the whole process into disrepute, and undermining the credibility of the very real financial crisis in schools, as explained below. By contrast the Principal of Homewood School, the largest secondary school in the county, had a salary of just £110,000 last year, one of majority of secondary heads around or below £100,000.


    After Knole the next two highest paid heads are the Principals of Leigh Academy and Wilmington Academy, both part of the Leigh Academy Trust, who each received £200,000 in remuneration, including their roles as Directors of the Trust. They were followed by the CEOs of two of Kent’s largest Academy Trusts, both responsible for more than a dozen primary and secondary schools: Swale AT and Leigh AT at £190,000 and £180,000 respectively.

    Grammar School Academy Headteachers are generally paid from around £85,000 to £110,000 annually, with Dartford Grammar School, the largest and most oversubscribed grammar school in the county on the latter sum. Highest paid Grammar School Head is at Rainham Mark Grammar, Medway. with £155,000 (£90,000 for HT salary, £65,000 for Academy Trust CEO), followed by Barton Court, Canterbury, at £125,000 (also a Trust CEO).

    At primary level the previous highest earner, the Head of Meopham Community Academy, has now retired from his £150,000 salary post, his replacement being employed at less than half of that rate. The highest paid heads of schools or multi academy trusts I have found this time round are the same two single standing academies as previously: The Academy of Woodlands in Gillingham, £105,000 in 2015-16, and St Stephen’s Academy, a Junior school in Canterbury on, the same figure for 2016-17.

    I look more closely at the Knole situation, and that of other high paying academies below. 

    Written on Wednesday, 21 February 2018 20:29 5 comments Read 1502 times
  • Medway Council fails its most vulnerable children

    Medway Council has once again failed its children, this time the most vulnerable, as confirmed by a scathing Ofsted Report on its ‘services’ to children with Special Education Needs and Disabilities, published this week. The report concludes ‘Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI) has determined that a Written Statement of Action is required because of significant areas of weakness in the local area’s practice’. I think that is putting it politely. There are strengths identified; it just happens that all these appear to be down to the health service and not education.

    Concerns centre about chaotic management of the ‘Service’, resulting in failure to take necessary action. This can be seen from the following quotes: ’Medway’s education and service leaders do not share one vision and strategy for SEN and/or disabilitiesNo arrangements are in place to ensure effective joint oversight and clear lines of accountabilityLittle progress has been made in addressing several of the pressing priorities for improvement identified as far back as 2012Leaders’ understanding of what has and has not improved in the meantime is limited. I could have chosen many others.


    'The collaborative work between professionals and children and their families to plan services and meet individual needs, known as co-production, is weak at both a strategic and individual level' This criticism is underpinned by the heavy criticism of the implementation of Education and Health Care Plans for children with the greatest needs, which are at the heart of Departmental work, and ‘A considerable number of parents shared concerns with inspectors that the needs of their children are not being identified and met sufficiently well’.

    There is of course reference to Medway's record exclusion rates: ‘Although improving, rates of permanent and fixed-term exclusion are still notably higher for pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities in Medway than for similar pupils nationally, as it is for all pupils. Lack of specialist provision has brought serious consequences for pupils with severe SEN or disabilities travelling out of Medway daily on long and very expensive journeys.  

    Written on Saturday, 10 February 2018 22:33 4 comments Read 446 times
  • Goodwin Academy – SchoolsCompany Trust on the way out?

    Updated 15th February: see also comment below.

    KM Online 16th February shows details of the job losses at this previously recovering school, expected because of the failures of SchoolsCompany. 

    The new Interim Chief Executive of SchoolsCompany Trust has apologised in a letter to parents of pupils at the Goodwin Academy for ‘previous financial failings, which are unacceptable’.

    Sadly, this has come as little surprise to me, as I foresaw issues as early as 2014, when I noted in an article that SchoolsCompany had contributed to the startling decline of the predecessor school Castle Community College (CCC), in Deal from Ofsted Outstanding to Special Measures in three short years. As a reward SchoolsCompany took over as sponsor of the school as recently as July 2016. The school was awkwardly renamed SchoolsCompany Goodwin Academy, presumably to advertise the name of the Sponsors as a priority, above creating a new school image.     

    The Academy limped on for a period, after 2014, with the 'support' of SchoolsCompany,  unpopular with a third of its places unfilled, and underperforming, although there have recent strong signs of improvement under new school leadership. Unusually, eight of the eleven Company Trustees were paid a salary by the Trust, hardly an inducement for encouraging scrutiny. After the school received a Financial Notice to Improvefrom the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in October, seven of the Trustees resigned including the Executive Principal of the Company This left the school with just four Trustees including the CEO and founder of the company, Elias Achilleos, although he now appears to have been replaced by the new Interim Chief Executive.  The Trust has demonstrably failed some of the Financial Notice's requirements for improvement. 

    Goodwin Academy

    The school will clearly have a future in its new £25 million premises opened four months ago on October 6th, just three weeks before Trustees resigned en masse, but it looks increasingly likely it will not be with Schools Company. Indeed a more than doubling of first preferences to 173 for 2018 admission, shows confidence in the school and its leadership, achieved without obvious input from the few remaining Trust members. 

    Written on Thursday, 08 February 2018 10:43 4 comments Read 1041 times